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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Otsego seeks levy-winning idea

TONTOGANY - Otsego school officials said last night a committee will begin work next month to try again to devise a plan residents can support for new and renovated school buildings.

Board President James L. Harter said he remains optimistic a winning plan can be found. Even after the third defeat of a bond levy in less than a year, opponents were telling him current school buildings have serious shortcomings.

“Almost to a person, they were saying there is no doubt we need better facilities for our kids,” Mr. Harter said. Voters may be asked to consider a new proposal in May, he said.

The last proposal defeated two weeks ago was an 8.9-mill, 28-year bond levy that would generate $25.5 million to provide funds for a middle school-high school building on the Tontogany campus. The project would have modified the current high school to house elementary pupils.

Residents rejected the issue by about 300 votes, though approval would have put the district in line to receive $22.3 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

The district's building plan has been attacked for consolidating elementary pupils into fewer buildings. Opponents wanted to keep the four neighborhood schools, Mr. Harter said.

Opponents in Grand Rapids said consolidating students in buildings outside the village would mean a loss of income tax revenue the village collects from school employees.

Other opponents favored renovating buildings rather than the district's proposal to erect new buildings.

In other action, the board voted 4-0 to place a 1.6-mill permanent improvement levy on the November ballot. The measure, which generates $164,000 annually, is a renewal of a 1.6-mill levy voters approved five years ago.

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